Connie Willis is a conceited author. In the Old English sense of "conceit" -- a clever construction. Willis's conceit is to write about "historians" -- time-travelers from the 2060s who go back in time to observe "ordinary people". Her Doomsday Book, about a village during the Black Plague, was one of the most riveting evocations of human emotion I have ever read.
This time, Willis's "historians" are covering World War II in England.Their observations of ordinary people are of course an excuse for Willis to dress a fascinating parade of characters, dozens of them, all bound up in the everyday heroism of enduring a war: the evacuation at Dunkirk, the children's' evacuation from London, the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the V1s and V2s, ...
Of course, the "historians" get caught up in the movement, and do heroic things themselves. Which should be impossible, because "the theory of time" forbids any time-traveler's meddling with the past. So... is there something wrong with time itself? Willis's characters must battle the Germans while they battle against the fabric of time itself!
These two books are in fact a single work, so you must read them in order. But DO read them! They are excellent!
... and then we must wait another ten years for Willis's next work... :-((((
So in my review of Blackout I mentioned I might come back to this book someday just to see how it all ends. Even though I was not impressed with Blackout, and pretty much equally unimpressed with All Clear for the same reasons, there is a good story in here. It???s just needlessly too long and drawn out. It???s like the author committed to a 20+ hour novel and had to fill the gaps with meaningless, boring, repetitious dialogue to achieve her goal. I think the narrator was even getting bored. It was a bit confusing at times as well. I had to rewind on many occasions to try and figure out what was going on. If you condense it all down it???s a very good story with interesting characters. The two kids in the story, who were a bit annoying at first, had me laughing out loud at times. I enjoyed the behind the scenes perspective this books gives of the war. The ending was a bit of a disappointment other than in finally ended. I can???t really recommend these two books, and yes unfortunately you need to read them both, unless you have credits to burn, have a lot of time on your hands, or enjoy Chinese water torture.
Connie Willis writes books that really get to me. Others have complained about "Black Out" and "All Clear" for being so long and for being repetitive. While there may be something to this, I just can't shake the feel and emotional context of the story. "Passage" was the same way--as was "Doomsday Book." Most books you listen to (or read) put them away and forget about them. Connie Willis's novels haunt you long after you reshelved them.
A beautifully written and narrated book, with so many characters that I won't soon forget. I wasn't there but the descriptions of the events and the people of Britain during WWII made me feel like I was there, or wish I had been. A little time travel, anyone? Some have complained that the two books, Black Out being the other, were over long. I disagree. The time used in the development and growth of the characters and their many parallel stories added so much to the atmosphere of the story and to the gradual rise in tension and wonderful conclusion.
Ah yes, back again with those angst-filled historians from the future. I really enjoyed both books. The authors begs, cajoles, emphatically declares that you should listen to the first book first. No, this is not a conspiracy, but rather a well planned out book of historical/science fiction with large, interesting cast of characters. Once again kudos to narrator Katherine Kellgren for bringing everyone alive. Sure, the characters get a little whiny at times but the trauma of war and concern about the future is palpable...listen to both!
LOVED this story! Connie Willis makes you fall in love with the characters. Katherine Kellgren is AMAZING as a narrator, flawlessly executing different voices and accents all in the same breath. Blackout and All Clear are a "must listen". Hope to hear more from this narrator.
Connie Willi is one of my favourite authors and I think this would have to be her best work. Her writing is so evocative and her research so thorough, that listening to these two books almost felt like time travel. I waited until both parts were available and listened to them as one big book, which they actually are. So, the biggest problem was finding the time to listen to it because once I had started listening, it was difficult to stop. About half way through, I was feeling slightly annoyed by all the false leads in the plot but I loved the writing so much that it was easy to overlook the winding plot and just enjoy the descriptive writing. The plot was pulled together so beautifully in the end, that I forgave any tendencies to ramble. The narration was very good, although Ms Kellgren did tend to make most of her female "contemp" characters sound like Mrs Slocomb from the British TV show, Are You Being Served.
So, two very minor points in an otherwise fabulous listening experience.
When I finished Blackout (book one) I had high expectations for this second concluding novel and the many revelations that were owed to us by the author. I admit that I felt let down but not so much that I didn’t enjoy the book and series overall. My single biggest disappointment in book 2 was the concept of the Continuum as portrayed. It was never well explained what it really was (time travel software, a super natural consciousness, the space/time continuum?), and in the end it just felt like a half baked idea that the author used because she couldn’t think of a more creative way to explain all that had gone wrong. That disappointment aside, I was happy to have read both, and I will be reading more of Connie’s books assuming she can bring herself to bring closure to future books in a single novel.
Having read all the customer reviews available so far, it's clear the Blackout/All Clear double book is either loved or hated by its readers / listeners. I'm one of the former - as a long-time fan of Connie Willis' work I've been waiting for All Clear to come out before I listened to Blackout and boy, was it worth the wait!
I can see why some readers found the characters' internal agonising over the impact their actions may have had on the space/time continuum too frequent or too long but, to me, the characters were incredibly three-dimensional and their fates something I really cared about. Yes, there were minor issues in historical accuracy - but the depth of Connie Willis' research into WWII England (and, especially, the Blitz) is incredibly impressive! And yes, there are minor inconsistencies in the books and, occasionally, Katherine Kellgren's somewhat unusual pronounciation of words was, er, surprising - but I was swept away by the story and the story-telling and the reading!
I find myself thinking about the characters and wondering what happened to them - sometimes devising plots to resolve ends which weren't tucked up entirely neatly. I think these are truly wonderful books and recommend them to anyone who likes their SF to have a human face
An excellent end to the story started in Blackout. For all of you who refused to listen to this book because of the misguided marketing, you are truely missing something. The story as a whole ranks on equal footing with Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog.